14 August 2019
Responding to the publication of the National Centre for Social Research’s survey into attitudes towards emergency care, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Taj Hassan said: “Patients are now recognising what staff and this College have been saying repeatedly for a long time; emergency departments are seriously overcrowded.
“Attendances undoubtedly have risen at A&E and patients naturally go to wherever the lights are on. However, crowding is not a consequence of large numbers of ‘worried well’ patients but of those with serious conditions requiring admission to a hospital bed, who are stuck on Emergency Department corridors unable to be admitted. The number of patients requiring admission has gone up by nearly a quarter since 2011-12, but since 2010-11 overnight acute bed numbers have been cut by 10%. It is little wonder then that the number of patients waiting over four-hours to be admitted has gone up by 308% in eight years.
“This lack of beds, along with a lack of social care, means that patients get stuck and cannot move to the next stage of their care, which in turn affects four-hour performance, a powerful marker of hospital flow.
“The ‘problem’ of increasing demand is not going away no matter where patients are treated and, as this survey makes very clear, staffing desperately needs to be expanded throughout the entire health system but especially in Emergency Departments. There is also a clear need for co-location of services.
“The solutions are clear. There is an urgent need to adequately resource the ‘front door’ of emergency care and increase the capacity of the acute bedbase which has been inappropriately and steadily cut over the past 6-8 years. This will reduce the risk of harm to patients and attrition amongst staff caring for them in a crowded and stressful environment.”